November IF Update

Thanksgiving_1900As I write this, it’s actually late on October 31.  Despite it not quite being November yet,  I have plenty to talk about for this monthly update so I’ll get started now anyway.

Halloween is past us and IFComp 2013 voting is starting to wind down.  I’ve played most of the games and have my votes tallied though I’ve been lax on putting out reviews here.  Initially I was enthusiastic about playing all the games and sharing my thoughts here, but as the month went on I became less and less excited to post reviews.  Not because the games weren’t good….there are some good ones in the batch, but more I had too many sticks in the fire this month to spend too much time writing reviews.  I was struggling finding time to play the games as it was.

I did however, manage to squeeze three hours last Saturday to create my entry for EctoComp 13 (website hasn’t been updated yet, but he said it would be soon).  Games were released today so get out there, play them and rate them.  This year EctoComp received a record number of entries (24) ….last year there were only 6 games submitted.  I’ve played through a few already and despite being speed IF, they have for the most part been of good quality.   I won’t talk about my game here just yet….but I do plan on revising it, I’ve actually started already, to fix the problems it has, round out the story and perhaps expand upon it a bit.  I really like my idea and I want to expand on it.  I’ll let you all know here when I have an update ready.

I’ve not touched my other two WIPs too much since last month.  I’m probably falling behind some if I plan on getting something ready for the Spring comp, but maybe if I push through, I might be ready.  I’ve spent most of my coding time this month toying with new ideas, looking at others source code, and generally just learning more about the craft.

It’s been an exciting October for me so looking forward to a great November as well.   As always….go north my friends.


IFComp 2013 – Machine of Death – Review

Now this one was fun.  This one deals with the self-fulfilling prophecy in which you try to avoid an outcome you know is coming, but the outcome is reached often through ways you did not expect and could not avoid despite your best efforts.  This one kept you coming back as there are many different scenarios that you can play though (I won’t spoil any of them for you as the experience and surprise is most the fun in these kinds of games).

This was a well written both textually and execution wise.  There is a fair amount of decisions to be made and each do seem to make a difference.  I doubt I’ve reached all the different scenarios even after playing for a bit.  None of the scenarios are very long, so a single play-through shouldn’t take more than a 10 minutes or so.

What would be interesting here is if the author continues to expand on the scenarios as they could be endless and would continue to bring be back from time to time.

I’m still more of a parser / puzzle fan, but this is how CYOA is done correctly and makes me a believer that the platform has great potential in the correct hands.   Well done!

IFComp 2013 – Bell Park, Youth Detective – Review

Another CYOA style game.  This one I actually sort of enjoyed.  We play as a Bell Park, a youngster that is put in charge of solving a murder so that the police don’t need to be involved.  OK, the premise is pretty far-fetched, so many problems with that.  Why would someone entrust a murder investigation with a youngster.  Also, what do we do with the body?  At some point, the police will need to be involved.

So let’s set that little suspension of belief aside and just accept that little plot point.  The story then becomes a matter of interviewing the different suspects and attempting to solve the mystery.  Unless I’ve missed something, it seems to matter little what your choices are for investigation.  The questions simply reveal the story and the background of the characters, but really offer little in the way of helping you solve the actual mystery.  The ending appears to be fairly static and while interesting (and I won’t give too much away), the solution to the mystery is really pretty fantastical; in fact so much so, that it was actually a bit of a let down for me.

Now having said all that…and it appears that I’m coming down on the game pretty hard….if you can look past the unrealistic premise and solution and see it for what it appears to be, a crazy story aimed at the pre-teen audience, I could actually see where this has some appeal.  The writing is actually pretty good and the characters, while not deeply developed, give it enough variety and depth that your interest is held for the short time they are on scene.

Bell Park, in my opinion is actually a decently likable character.  She seems to have her self-doubts on whether she can solve the mystery, yet presses on so as not to be seen as, just a stupid kid.  Her initial incorrect conclusions she makes seems to be within that character of what a young person would react if put into a difficult situation that she is not equipped to handle.  So actually her character was pretty believable.

Overall, decently done.  While many parts of this are over the top, it actually works well if taken in the complete fantastical style….reminds me of some of the Goosebumps style stories.  No puzzles to speak of, and since I’m more of a puzzle person, that was a disappointment, but as a story….not bad.

IFComp 2013 – Autumn’s Daughter – Review

Another CYOA style game, but much to my surprise I enjoyed this one.  Not only did I find the story compelling, IAutumnsDaughter found the extra polish that was given to the interface made it stand out from others.  I find that many of these style of games often get lost in poor writing (a problem with all styles of IF), poor interface or just an overload of text with a few hyperlinks to click just to move the story along.

Autumn’s Daughter did not fall into these traps. It was well written, had a great interface and offered enough choices that made slight differences in the endings, that it made me come back and play it.  In fact I played it once more through before writing this review and managed to stumble upon another ending that I hadn’t come across before.  None of the paths take more than a few minutes to progress through, so there is no reason not to keep coming back.

The story is geared around telling us the plight of young women in Pakistan and it succeeds in getting that point across.  However, there is not real character or world building which leaves it lacking some and I never really felt much empathy for the specific characters in the game.  In fact, the first time or two through the game I didn’t realize what the underlying theme or setting were, so the whole story was lost on my at first.  But, I was intrigued enough and the effort to play again was minimal that I kept coming back.

Overall, a solid effort for the CYOA genre, nothing spectacular but still a solid effort that was well done, which in my mind puts it ahead of most other similar games.

IFComp 2013 – Review – 100,000 Years

Life got in the way so I’m a bit late on the reviews….but I’ll try to remedy that here soon.  Here’s the first one, for 100,000 years by Pierre Chevalier.  As I’m typing this, I am realizing that I’ve invested more time in creating this review, than I did with actually playing the game.

I guess some people may like this short of thing, but to me it was just a web page with a next and previous button with a small bit of text.  Perhaps some can appreciate the recursive nature of the “story”, if you want to call it that.  And i guess it fits the definition of Interactive Fiction, but to me I just didn’t see the point.  Very short, so not much time was spent on this, so give it a shot if you like this sort of thing….just not for me.

Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform 7 by Aaron Reed – A Review.

When I got back into the IF world and wanted to start authoring my ownnote-1 I voraciously scoured the internet in search of all the information I could find….and there is quite a bit between the forums, some of the leaders in the field and having many games released with source code. Having spent a few days reading all I could, I stumbled upon Aaron Reed and his blog. Not only did I see he was an accomplished IF authornote-2, but also was one of the leaders in educating others in developing with Inform 7, but also in using interactive fiction as a tool to educate on other subjects. So of course when I noticed he wrote a book, Creating Interactive Fiction with Inform 7, I had to order it right away.

514a8837j6L._SL160_This book is a great introduction to creating interactive fiction in Inform 7. Aaron does a fine job of easing you into creating things by introducing us to interactive fiction, familiarizing ourselves with the Inform 7 application, and begin development of a sample game that we build upon throughout the entire book.

Aaron covers most of the important areas of Inform 7 that you will use in almost every game. From the basic creation of rooms, creating things and placing them in locations and creating custom kinds and properties to making things happen with rules and actions. He also covers some more advanced logic, scenes, conversation models and character interaction. He covers things in just enough detail to understand, often presents areas where we could improve or expand on what he has shown, and gives exercises to show off what we’ve learned by customizing his central game. Again, not everything is covered, or some topics aren’t covered in great detail, but the technical side of the book gives us more than enough to get started and often leads us to learn more.

In addition to the technical side of the book, Aaron often covers aspects of story design and authoring. Everything from creating good descriptions and creating atmospheric text, to story pacing and good conversation and character interaction. Often a book or article will cover either the technical side well or the artistic side well, but rarely both. Aaron does a fine job on both and blends them together nicely.

Regardless your level of expertise with Inform 7 or with interactive fiction creation, I believe Aaron’s book gives great insights for both novices and experts alike. I still refer to it at times when I’m looking for some specific aspect I recall being covered that I’m not remembering or for inspiration on a story element. Price is reasonable and there is a Kindle version available. Well worth the cost. I hope to see more works like this from Aaron or others.

1 – Back around 2002, I played with Inform 6 and created the stereotypical first game, a layout of my house, but real life got in the way and I never went much further. Jump to 2013 and I look to see what has been going on over the last few years and I discover Inform 7. It was a natural choice for me as I was already somewhat familiar and the natural language syntax intrigued me as a programmer.
2 – See Blue Lacuna, billed as the largest work of IF ever written…but the source code is available as well. Great learning available here.

October IF Update

ChaseoftheWitchesDetailSmallWell September flew by and here we are already 5 days into October.  So what have I been up to?  Quite a bit actually, I’ve met quite a few good people in the IF world hooking up on the forums and a IF writer’s group on Google+ (thanks Marshall for the invite).  Speaking of Marshall, I beta-tested his new release that I feel is one of his best works so far.  Go check it out.

Speaking of beta-testing, I helped beta-test a few games that are now out for IFComp2013.    Go check out all the entries, play and vote!  This year there are a lot more web-based CYOA type games, which historically I’ve not been a fan of, but I’ve got to be honest, I’ve found a few that have peaked my interest in the style and I’ll be searching out more like them.

One that wasn’t part of the Comp  that originally opened my eyes, was my father’s long, long legs.  Oh my what a great game / story, if it had been entered into the competition, I’ve not doubt that it would have placed well.  It was so well done in a style that I’m hoping more and more author’s emulate.  I was going to review it here, but just go check it out.

As I’ve said, I’ve been playing through the comp games and putting my thoughts and scores down on paper.  I’ve contemplated posting reviews here, I even said I might on this thread (which you can find links to many other blogs that are doing reviews), but we’ll see if I follow through on that, I have a lot of other projects in the mix and while I’m making the time to play the games, I’m not sure I’ll make the time to do many reviews. Other projects I’m working on now….

  • Still working on my larger WIPs.  Would like to get one finished in time for Spring Thing 2014.  My shorter work is maybe 50% done while my larger one is probably not even 10%.  I’m pretty happy with the direction both are moving, but my pace has slowed down as I’ve become involved in other things as well.
  • Starting to plan for EctoComp 2013.  This sounds like a fun time, 3-hour SpeedIF for Halloween themed games.  I’ve never done a SpeedIF comp before as I tend to not move that quick.  I can spend 3 hours sometimes getting the wording just write on a description, but I’m hoping this will stretch me a bit and force me to think on a clean, tight story and implementation.  This should be fun.
  • Working on ideas and talking with administrators to promote IF usage in our local school system.  Lots of ideas here, from creating materials for teachers to utilize to teaching classes myself.  I touched on my education interests with IF before and there a quite a few resources out there, but I’m not sure that many educators are aware of it or how it can be beneficial.  I’m trying to change that, at least locally, and then seeing where it goes from there.

Anyway, lots going on and lots to do.  Go north my friends!